Saturday, September 15, 2007

C.S. Lewis on prayer

Sue is a buddy of mine from several online forums. She provides much encouragement for me here on Mercy Not Sacrifice in the form of positive comments about some of my blog posts. Thanks Sue!! And thanks for the interesting bit of info in your comments about my C.S. Lewis post. In her comment, she refered to him by his "REAL" name. I guess I had never pondered what the C.S. was short for...but honestly, I don't think I would have ever come up with "Clive Staples"...for a million dollars...or even with a loaded gun pointed at my head. I don't think I have ever known a "Clive". Reminds me of some of the off beat names my ex wanted to bless our kids with. As a name for my son, my firstborn, he was trying to decide between Otho (his grandfather's name) or Braxton (inspired by Braxton Hicks contractions during the late stages of pregnancy). At my insistance, we settled on Matthew. He wanted to name Beth, my oldest daughter, Mornay. Her dad is a chef. Even though Mornay sounds melodic to the ear, it is still the French name for a fish sauce. For Emily, my youngest daughter, he had the name Pella in mind. Not sure about the whys of that but I think it was inspired by the window company. Pella. Uh-huh. Let's rethink about.....oh....Emily? Anyway, back to Clive. (no wonder he chose to go by C.S.!!)

I came across an article yesterday in my travels - C.S.Lewis on Prayer edited by Lyle W. Dorsett. In it he has some interesting persectives on prayer.

"Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person. Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctu­ary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine. In it God shows Himself to us. That He answers prayers is a corollary—not necessarily the most important one—from that revelation. What He does is learned from what He is."

On a blog post this month at The Crescat... Carolina Cannonball posed a question in a post called His will be done? that I have pondered a hundred times and have as yet found a satisfactory answer for:

What is the point of praying if God already has a plan in mind for us? Why interject our own desires into prayers of petitions if we are expected to pray for His will to be done? If I pray for something so earnestly all my life and it is not what God has in mind for me, then I have wasted thousands of prayers in vain. What I desire may or may not be what God has in mind for me, I have no way of knowing. So I ask, why bother?

Good question, Carolina (and interesting blog by the way, which I happened upon randomly via a google search for a particular quote on prayer. Your blog definitely deserves a closer look-see)
In one of the comments on the post, one of her readers said:

.....the point of praying is not to conform God's will to yours, but to conform your will to God's. My priest told me the ultimate prayer is "Thy will be done." All the hours of prayer hopefully lead to finding out what God's will for you is and then following it. That is not to say it is easy, just that it is (in the long run, at least) worth it.

THAT was a paraphrase of the quote I was looking for.

C.S. Lewis goes on to say:

Petitionary prayer is, nonetheless, both allowed and commanded to us: “Give us our daily bread.” And no doubt it raises a theoretical problem. Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to the suggestions of men? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents, whether living or inanimate.

There is that question again....why bother to pray?

He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to co-operate in the execution of His will. “God,” said Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.” But not only prayer; whenever we act at all He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so. They have not advised or changed God's mind—that is, His over-all purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures. So at least it seems to me. But what I have offered can be, at the very best, only a mental model or symbol. All that we say on such subjects must be merely analogical and parabolic. The reality is doubtless not comprehensible by our faculties. But we can at any rate try to expel bad analogies and bad parables.

The reality is doubtless not comprehensible by our faculties. Yep....

He goes on for several more paragraphs in which he expresses his opinion that the more mature the Christian the LESS God seems to answer the prayer...and the more emphatic is the NO. I don't like that part at all. The following quote seems to wrap things up:

Prayer is not a machine. It is not magic. It is not advice offered to God. Our act, when we pray, must not, any more than all our other acts, be separated from the continuous act of God Himself, in which alone all finite causes operate.

There was a guy who used to post on some of the message boards and lists where I was a member. His name was "Whisper" and he had a profound saying that I have used many, many times as I ponder these deep, confusing, theological issues......"Dunno"

1 comment:

Sue said...

Mornay - that cracks me up :)

And CS's nickname was Jack - surprise surprise!!! (Staples - WTF???)